New York State Assists Grape Growers Hit By Harsh Winter

New York Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced due to harsh winter weather conditions, actions have been taken to protect New York’s vineyards that were potentially impacted. New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo directed the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to work with partners to assess the damages incurred by the state’s wine industry, and, should grape yields dictate, allow farm wineries to purchase grapes grown outside of New York State.

As a result of the damage assessed in surveys conducted by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), Commissioner Ball has issued a determination, pursuant to state law, allowing farm wineries — a facility that grows,manufactures, and sells wine — to manufacture or sell wine made from grapes grown outside of New York, as well as juice produced outside the state.

“We experienced as much as 75% bud damage over the winter, as did many other growers who grow the same grapes that we do. There are only so many grapes out there in our region, and right now there are more buyers than there are grapes,” Scott Osborn, president of Fox Run Vineyards in Penn Yan, said. “This declaration will help us keep our wine production up so we can meet our obligations to our customers.”

By law, all wine produced by a New York farm winery must be made completely from grapes, fruits, or agricultural products grown in New York. This winter’s sub-zero temperatures resulted in a 40% loss, putting heavy demand on the surviving grapes. State law allows the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to give authorization to wineries to use grapes grown outside of New York if an investigation shows that adverse weather conditions have destroyed no less than 40% of a specific grape varietal grown or produced in the state. This is the first time such a declaration has been made in New York State since 2005 and applies to farm wineries statewide.

“The state’s grape harvest is fast approaching and due to freezing temperatures that severely damaged plants throughout the state, there will be more demand than supply for New York grapes,” said Ball. “I’ve heard stories from owners of wineries across the state. Some vineyards received little to no damage this winter, while neighbors just down the road were devastated.”

The combination of harsh winter temperatures, sustained cold, lack of snow cover, as well as alternating warmer and colder temperatures killed critical fruiting buds, vastly reducing 2014’s grape yield. Vineyards also saw trunk damage, which would necessitate the need for an entire plant to be replaced. Grape varieties covered under this declaration include: Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lemberger, Syrah, Gamay Noir, Brianna, Frontenac, La Crescent, and Noiret.

“Wine is farming first and foremost, and when we are affected by a major weather event like this past winter that significantly reduces the amount of certain grape varieties, it is vital for wineries to source products from other regions in order to maintain their presence in the marketplace,” Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, said. “We hope and expect that next year will be more normal and this action will not be needed.”

Pursuant to federal law, all wines will be appropriately labeled relevant to the origin of their grapes. In order for New York wines to be labeled New York wines, at least 75% of grape contents must have been grown in New York. An application for farm wineries, including eligibility criteria, is available at http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/AP/Farm_Winery_Application.pdf.

New York ranks third in wine and grape production. According to a recent study commissioned by the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, the full economic impact of New York grapes, grape juice and wine in 2012 was $4.8 billion for New York State.

Since 2011, the number of farm wineries in the state has risen by nearly 50% from 195 to 291 today. In addition, the number of farm wineries opening branch offices in New York, authorized by legislation signed by Governor Cuomo in 2011, has increased by 97%, from 29% to 57%, and the number of wineries has also increased by 46%, from 52 in 2011 to 76 today.

Source: New York Agriculture Commission news release

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